Discerning Next Steps

Should I go to seminary? 

The process of discernment in general, and to the seminary and possible vocation to the priesthood, can be looked at as compared to the process of fruit ripening.  A fruit tree needs to be nourished with water, sunlight and good soil for the fruit to ripen.  In the same way, we need the right conditions for effective discernment of our vocation, such as a life of prayer, good moral life, and generosity.  And just as fruit on the tree should neither be picked too early while not yet ripe, nor should it be left on the tree too long only to rot and fall to the ground.  Likewise, when we consider our own vocational discernment, we should act, moving forward prudently toward where we prayerfully determine God may be calling us, neither waiting too long in procrastination or fear, nor impulsively jumping to conclusions without due reflection.

One of the best questions to ask ourselves when considering if it is the right time to apply to seminary is: “What is the next best step I can make right now to draw closer to the call God has for me?”  Sometimes, we try to handle the behemoth of a question which is: “Should I be a priest?”, when we just need to ask: “Should I enter seminary to discern if God might want me to be a priest?”  Because the seminary is a place where other men like us are asking the same questions, surrounded by priests and others who are trained to help us ask the questions of discernment well, the seminary might be the best place for you to answer that question.  Perhaps one might need to take time working on some aspect of their humanity before being able to enter seminary, but conversations with the Vocation Director and the application process helps to figure that out.  The Lord does not just need any other guy to sign up to be a priest.  Rather, those who are chosen by Him, and have responded with generous hearts are those who should become priests.  The seminary is a place to ask the right questions and to take the time to hear the right answers.

Is now  the right time?

  1. Talk to a Vocation Director. 

    Discernment your vocation requires action, not just thought! The role of the vocation director is to assist men in considering what God might be calling them to.  It is not to recruit, but to assist.  So, it makes good sense that if you are thinking that God may be asking you to consider a priestly vocation, you can get some assistance from a priest who is trained and willing to discuss it with you.  A vocation, no matter what it is, is not created by us, but rather, it is discovered.  The Vocation Director’s job is to help you ask the right questions in the right way, and to pray for you and encourage you to answer them well, so that you can discover the call God has for you.  It’s also his work to assist you in knowing some basic information about discernment, application process, seminary formation, and practical aspects of priestly life.
  2. Trust that God will direct you if you give Him permission. 

    God is never outdone in generosity.  This means that if we take the next step, and do it with a general attitude of openness to God’s plan, and a willingness to follow it, even if imperfectly, then we can trust that God will help us.  God will not lead us down a road and then abandon us.  Rather, God always takes our good will and desire to follow in the right direction, and directs us in the way that will lead to our greatest good.  Sometimes it is only after we have made the first step towards a possible call to the priesthood that we begin to have a sense of peace.  Talking about it, and making serious efforts toward knowing if we are called are necessary if we are ever going to really know.  So, trust that if you say yes to God in making the next step, He will lead you to where you will find the most meaning.
  3. Strike while the iron is hot. 

    Why is it that we pause and hesitate to seek what we think might be the case?  Very often, an obstacle to taking the next step is the fear or lethargy that results in waiting to take the necessary steps toward discerning a call.  If you think that God may be calling you to the Priesthood, then the first question to answer is if now is the time to enter the seminary.  What is the next best step in determining what God desires? Simply starting the process by contacting the vocation office is the best way to determine it.  If it is God’s desire, then He will bless it. If it is not, then He will make it very clear. 

A simple discernment exercise:

Look at these simple statements, think and pray a little about them, and consider that God works in many ways to help us to follow His path for us.  A Vocation to Priesthood is a call, not a career. Maybe it’s God’s call for you. 

  • A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is important to me.
  • People have told me I would make a good priest.
  • I love the Church and Her Sacraments.
  • Going to Mass and Adoration is a very important part of my faith life.
  • The thought of becoming a priest keeps coming back over and over again. I’m not sure if it’s from me or from God.
  • I’m not sure how to tell my friends and family that I’ve been thinking about the priesthood.
  • I feel called to give more of myself to others. Something calls me to do something great for God.
  • After hearing the readings at Mass I think about how I would preach.
  • I have a burning desire to help people get closer to Christ and to know the Truth.
  • I have a sense that what I have planned for the future may not what God has planned for me.